C.L.R. James Hackney library and pamphlet
Christian Hogsbjerg, a C.L.R. James scholar, who had seen some of my political papers in the Bishopsgate Institute recently contacted me. He had been taken aback that a local council could have named a library (in Dalston in Hackney) after a black marxist anti imperialist : this was scarcely his experience of councils in the last 30 years and asked to interview me.
His pamphlet on the naming of the library (and the saving of the name some decades on!) written with Gaverne Bennett was launched in the library. Various activists from the 1980s who had contributed to the pamphlet were there to discuss how the library had been so named. For some the context was simply around anti-racism; for others it was the broader local politics of the time: campaigns against rate-capping, supporting the miners, providing apprenticeships and keeping building contracts in-house, declaring the borough to be a nuclear-free zone.
Every generation constructs a history it deems relevant for its present. Clearly the current local state has no wish to remember its radical past. Whether the story recounted that local councillors thought that the library had been named after a former councillor, thereby showing a lack of literacy as well as political knowledge could not be confirmed.There are few commemorative traces of that time in Hackney: a recently restored peace mural, flats named after Nelson Mandela and a council building after Maurice Bishop and plaques to the direct labour training project.
This pamphlet goes some way to bringing into the present that forgotten time.